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The Apparition of Enoch Soames
July 22, 2008 10:58 AM   Subscribe

In the summer of 1897, the Devil transported a minor Decadent poet named Enoch Soames one hundred years into the future to see what posterity would make of his work. The only witness to the affair was the parodist Max Beerbohm, whose account of Soames and his journey ensured that at 2:10 P.M. on June 7, 1997, some dozen pilgrims waited in the Round Reading Room of the British Museum to see the poet appear...
posted by Iridic (26 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite

 
Ah, that should be June 3, 1997. The Devil has struck me with dyslexia.
posted by Iridic at 11:08 AM on July 22, 2008


I found this to be very nice.
posted by Senator at 11:10 AM on July 22, 2008


...he was considered by many to be the greatest wit in town, and spent much of his time burning up the Oxford-London railway. His early brilliance faded all too soon, and by thirty-five he was viewed as a prematurely dull, heavy, middle-aged man.

Judged "prematurely dull" and "heavy" in a time when people still used the term "wit". Ouch.
posted by DU at 11:14 AM on July 22, 2008


On the first link I click "Poems by Soames" and see crap I've read a thousand times before at least.

Posterity, eh?
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 11:19 AM on July 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Something tells me the real gutenberg didnt preface his bibles with 8 pages of legalese and donation begging.
posted by damn dirty ape at 11:20 AM on July 22, 2008


The final link, the essay by Teller, is absolutely delightful. Thank you, Iridic.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:23 AM on July 22, 2008


Teller's beautiful essay makes me wonder about the time capsule I buried in the fourth grade.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 11:26 AM on July 22, 2008


Something tells me the real gutenberg didnt preface his bibles with 8 pages of legalese and donation begging.

No, he did not. And if you're ever lucky enough to possess one, you'll never grow old, and you'll never die. But you may still need to check your blood sugar and check it often.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:31 AM on July 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


The proto-neckbeard is funny.
posted by DU at 11:38 AM on July 22, 2008


Wonderful post.
posted by LarryC at 11:40 AM on July 22, 2008


Brimley is a lich. He skin is parchment from the last Gutenberg and his blood is dark, dark ink. We spends his days pricking his skin with a needle, not to test glucose, but to write the last few verses of the world. When he is finished, he shall lay down his burden, slough off his skin, and ride the horse that is the Moon into the site of ancient Lemuria, killing us all in healing steam.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:41 AM on July 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


When he is finished, he shall lay down his burden, slough off his skin, and ride the horse that is the Moon into the site of ancient Lemuria, killing us all in healing steam.

I liked how you used "Moon-horse" as a metaphor for a Rascal scooter.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:00 PM on July 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


I was there in the Reading Room on 3 June 1997! It didn't happen quite as Teller describes it .. actually there was a party attended by several hundred people, including most of the leading eccentrics in London (Stephen Calloway, for example), drawn as if by some tribal instinct. Much wine flowed. There was definitely a fin-de-siecle feeling in the air, as the Round Reading Room closed its doors a few months later when the British Library moved to St Pancras. Soames was only just in time.
posted by verstegan at 12:05 PM on July 22, 2008 [7 favorites]


verstegan, so you saw the figure that Teller limns? Have pix?


DO tell!

The "Critical Heritage" site is lovely and fascinating, but has massive link rot, including a 404 pointing to a British Library exhibition.
posted by mwhybark at 12:14 PM on July 22, 2008


Great post! And it's good to be reminded what a delightful writer Beerbohm was:
"I can always read Milton in the reading-room."

"The reading-room?"

"Of the British Museum. I go there every day."

"You do? I've only been there once. I'm afraid I found it rather a
depressing place. It--it seemed to sap one's vitality."

"It does. That's why I go there. The lower one's vitality, the more
sensitive one is to great art. I live near the museum. I have rooms in
Dyott Street."

"And you go round to the reading-room to read Milton?"

"Usually Milton." He looked at me. "It was Milton," he
certificatively added, "who converted me to diabolism."
The 1890s were definitely more interesting than the 1990s.
posted by languagehat at 12:57 PM on July 22, 2008


We're not going to start limning now, are we? I'm going to need some absinthe if we're doing that.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:00 PM on July 22, 2008


We're not going to start limning now, are we?

No, we're still just exchanging sub-limninal messages.

BUY PEPSI
posted by cortex at 1:05 PM on July 22, 2008


My sub-Luminol message:

REDRUM!!!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:08 PM on July 22, 2008


I liked how you used "Moon-horse" as a metaphor for a Rascal scooter.

The Steed of the Last Day shall be bold and brass and eligible to be financed by Medicare. It will be a heaving thing, a beast that sits all comfortably, and shall be charged daily by the Outlet that is the Stars. Demons shall be bound into its very tires and angels into its horn, a single agent of Above or Below perishing with every honk or squealing tire.

Luckily for Mankind it slumbers now, drifting peacefully through the void of space, the only visions of its metallic madness and steam-built wrath seen through links on Boing Boing. It waits, haunting my dreams.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 1:09 PM on July 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


Much here in common with the sadly neglected American writer, Stuart Cummings Ripley.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 1:20 PM on July 22, 2008


The final link, the essay by Teller, is absolutely delightful. Thank you, Iridic.

It was good - and I'm left pondering the world we missed, one where the Tellers get to talk and the Penns just shut the hell up.
posted by kid ichorous at 1:27 PM on July 22, 2008 [21 favorites]


This was fantastic, thank you.
posted by jokeefe at 3:06 PM on July 22, 2008


Meeting Soames in a restaurant:
I almost wondered that Mr. Soames did not, after this monosyllable, pass along. He stood patiently there, rather like a dumb animal, rather like a donkey looking over a gate. A sad figure, his. It occurred to me that "hungry" was perhaps the mot juste for him; but--hungry for what? He looked as if he had little appetite for anything. I was sorry for him; and Rothenstein, though he had not invited him to Chelsea, did ask him to sit down and have something to drink.

Seated, he was more self-assertive. He flung back the wings of his cape with a gesture which, had not those wings been waterproof, might have seemed to hurl defiance at things in general. And he ordered an absinthe.
There goes the rest of my day...
posted by jokeefe at 3:13 PM on July 22, 2008


There was definitely a fin-de-siecle feeling in the air, as the Round Reading Room closed its doors a few months later when the British Library moved to St Pancras.

The books were moved, yes, but the Round Reading room is still there.
posted by vacapinta at 3:32 PM on July 22, 2008


Excellent post, the essay by Teller was delicious.
posted by nudar at 4:20 PM on July 22, 2008


The Teller essay made me cry, of joy and sorrow in equal measure.
Thank you.
posted by gemmy at 4:28 PM on July 22, 2008


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